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Temporary gay street opens in Rome August 5, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life.
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Italian gay and lesbian activists are asking Rome’s municipality authorities to create a gay-street

Rome marked the opening of its first “Gay Street” with flags, banners and protests amid a row over a homosexual couple who claimed they were detained by police for kissing in front of the nearby Colosseum.

Campaigners welcomed a 300-metre zone in the centre of the city, filled with shops and bars, as an area where gays can “feel at ease,” after days of heated debate in predominantly Roman Catholic Italy over the kissing incident. The two men were detained briefly last week for what the police said were lewd acts in public, a crime that can carry a sentence of up to two years in jail.

“This will be an area where people can feel at ease, and it is also meant to be a bridge between the citizens and the homosexual community,” activist Fabrizio Marrazzo, the leader in Rome of Italy’s Arcigay gay rights movement, said in a telephone interview Friday. “We hope this will become a contact point to for us to make our differences known to others and create a climate for peaceful coexistence.”

The two men, one of whom took part in the street’s festive inauguration, insist they only shared a gesture of affection after a night out. Gay couples held a small “kiss-in” rally near the monument on Sunday to protest what they say was an act of discrimination. 

The issue sparked controversy and some legislators said they would debate the issue in parliament. Police said the two were not just kissing and would have behaved the same way if it had been a heterosexual couple. Right-wingers have protested the City Hall’s decision to close the area to traffic for three nights a week through September 8.

“Nobody wants to condemn those who practise a different sexuality, but to dedicate a street only to gays and lesbians I think it’s a sort of useless and marginalizing project,” right wing politician Piergiorgio Benvenuti was quoted as saying by daily Il Giornale.

Gay rights recently came into the spotlight in Italy when the government proposed a bill aimed at granting legal rights to unmarried and same-sex couples. The legislation sparked controversy and angered the Vatican, which under Pope Benedict has been conducting a fierce campaign to protect traditional family based on marriage between man and woman. The bill requires parliamentary approval.

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